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The Return-to-Office Dilemma: Exploring the Battle Between In-Person and Remote Work


In the wake of an unprecedented global pandemic, the corporate landscape has been reshaped in ways we could hardly have imagined just a few short years ago. As the world has gradually reopened, a curious dance has begun between employers and employees—one centered on the question of where work should happen. This summer, a multitude of companies, among them the video conferencing giant Zoom, made headlines with the announcement of their return-to-office mandates. However, what ensued was a complex, often contradictory narrative. Some companies staunchly upheld their in-person work requirements, while others retreated from their initial mandates.


Yet, as we find ourselves again seeing these attempts to coax employees back into downtown office buildings, a fundamental question looms: Will stricter measures succeed where enticing snacks and office perks have faltered? Can anything persuade a workforce that has grown accustomed to work-life balance and the freedom of remote work to forsake it all for a daily, often arduous, commute? What lessons have we gleaned from the ongoing debate surrounding in-person versus remote work during these transformative years? Is there a compelling reason why this contentious struggle endures, or is it time to reconsider the very premise of the battle itself?


In this podcast from The Big Story, host Jordan Heath-Rawlings and his guest, Dr. Catherine Connelly, Professor of Human Resources & Management, McMaster University delve into the intricate web of challenges, experiences, and insights surrounding the return-to-office impasse. They examine the evolving landscape of work, the psychology of choice, and the enduring impact of the pandemic on our understanding of how, where, and why work is conducted.


Dr. Connelly shares two particularly salient pieces of advice in the episode. For employers, she notes, “If you have a good person in the role, I think it's way cheaper to keep them engaged and involved…it’s so much more work to try to get someone new into that position.” As she notes, the cost of turnover is generally accepted to be 150% of an individual’s salary, due to lost productivity, hiring, onboarding, training, and disruption with clients.

For employees, Dr. Connelly shares this advice: “Every five years or so, at a minimum, they should be testing the waters outside their company.” They might come away from the exercise knowing that they’re in the right place, and reenergized, or they might realize that they need to go elsewhere to be valued appropriately.


At Verriez, a lot of our clients realize the benefits of remote work and are offering at least a hybrid model. Candidates we speak to seem to prefer this type of flexibility.


If you’re grappling with how to move forward with your talent strategy, get in touch with us! Email Paul, Brent, Troy, or Tara, or give us a call at 519-673-3463 or 416-847-0036.

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